Saturday, December 7, 2013

Last Minute Do It Yourself (DIY) Christmas Gift- Inexpensive and Well Received!

Need to save some cash this holiday season? Well, who doesn't? They are mostly quick and easy, definitely inexpensive. But, also they are gifts that are wonderful to receive!

The first gift item is aimed at women and children-
Candy Cane Bath Salts- These not only smell great, but will also energize the senses while soothing tired muscles.
2 Cups Epsom Salts
1/2 Cup Sea Salt
4-6 drops of  pepermint oil
2-3 drops of red food coloring
Place one cup of Epsom salts in a bowl with 1/4 cup sea salt and add 2-3 drops of peppermint oil. Mix well. Place the remaining ingredients in a second bowl. You will have red and white mixtures. Layer the two in a decorative glass bottle and tie with ribbon.
Creative Frames - These are great for anyone! Especially if you put in a favored photo.
Plain wooden frame
Acrylic paints
Wood Glue
Various Embellishments
Take the frame and paint it according to your theme. Then affix your embellishments with the wood glue. Some examples could be a beach theme using seashells, a cooking theme using labels, a sports theme with tickets. Get creative!
Coffee Lover's Basket -  Make your own flavored coffee blend, place in a decorated mason jar, and add a few more items
Coffee Recipe (Cafe' Vienna)
1 Cup Instant Coffee
1 Cup sugar
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 1/2 non dairy creamer (powdered)
1 1/2 dry milk
4 Tbs Cocoa
Now add a couple coffee mugs and a few candies and Viola! What a great gift.....
Last project:
Perfect for a whole household!
Make a tile Message Center
You will need:
  •  a white tile (4X4)
  • a 6X6 block of wood
  • Black Marker
  • Rub on decals
  • dry erase marker
  • acrylic paint
  • epoxy glue
Glue the tile onto the piece of wood, paint the exposed wood edges, and let dry. Use the decals you have chosen to decorate the wooden frame around the tile. Using your permanent marker, write "Notes" or "Phone Messages" across the top of the tile. When it is finished, wrap it with the dry esase marker for your gift.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Start Coupon Shopping With These Great Basic Tips

I know this is not a new topic, but I thought I would share some tips I have learned through trial and error when it comes to grocery shopping.

First the subject of using coupons:
  • Clip coupons for items you would normally use and/or are for items you would really love to try!
  •  Keep your coupons organized! Get a ready made Coupon Organizer or make your own.
                  -To make your own, simply buy a check organizer at any stationary store and place
                    dividers according to food categories
                - I use a ton of coupons, so mine are kept in a binder. A standard 3 ring binder works great, but a zippered one is best.
  • Keep in mind most grocery stores will Double your coupons provided the face value is .99 or less
  • Weed out old coupons weekly. You don't want to get "caught" trying to use an expired coupon!
  • Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT always cheaper to use a coupon!
What? Not always cheaper to use a coupon?
That leads us to part two - Grocery Store circulars;
  • Do not throw them away!
  • Compare prices if you have more than one in your area.
  • Keep a list as you are going through the circular. Write down the bargains at each store. Mark with a "C" those you also have a coupon for!
  • Plan your week's menus around this circular.
Sounds like a ton of work, doesn't it? At first it really can be! But as you get to know your store's sales habits (yes most do offer sales on items in cycles), it gets a bit easier. My nearest grocery store has a fantastic sale on Deli cheese once a month. We buy a month's worth at that time.
I mentioned a list before. This is vital! You should keep a master list at all times. This master list will have the items you need to purchase every week, such as milk on it. Then another list posted on the fridge is a great idea. Jot down items you are running low on. When you are going through your circulars you can transfer these items along with the great sale items onto one list you will bring with you to the store.
For help with lists, there are many websites that feature free printable grocery lists and blank menus.
My last tip for today- Reduced and Generic items........
Reduced for Quick Sale-
  •  I will buy many items here. Bakery items such as rolls and bagels can be frozen until used.
  •  Also some veggies and fruit can be a great deal, if you will use them quickly, bake with them, or can freeze them
  • Meats can be a great deal too. I recently found boneless, skinless chicken breast for about1.19/lb. I bought 4 packages and promptly froze them.
Generic Items
Some will scoff at the idea of this, I know. However, do you take generic prescriptions? Of course you do-when you can! Because you trust this is the same medication as the major brand, right? Same with food. Actually some generics are even better. There is a store brand of Raisin Bran I buy that has twice as many Raisins as any major brand.
A great many times a generic product will actually cost LESS than a major brand when using a doubled coupon for that brand name.
As proof to this way of shopping, when we bought our house I had a major shopping to do. Three people and we needed everything down to salt! I bought enough groceries for a week and a half, all pantry staples, 2 24 pack rolls of toilet tissue, garbage bags (6 boxes) , 9 rolls of Paper Towels, and cleaning supplies, as well as all those condiments for under $100.00!
Give it a try! Other than a little bit of time, what have you got to lose?

Save Some Money This Holiday Season With DIY Gifts

So, if you're anything like me, you've already begun your shopping for this year's holiday gifts. AND you'd like to be able to save some cash too. BUT, you don't want to come off as cheap, do you?

Well, there are some steps to giving a great gift with very little out of pocket expense.
The very first step is to make a list! Sounds simple doesn't it? For some it really is. But if you are like me, you get the "rebound" list. What's THAT? Oh, where you start the thinking of "If I buy for this one, then I have to give this one a gift too". If this is the case, then you MUST start early!
So, you have your list- great! Here's the hard part. What to get everyone! Through trial and error, I have found MOST people do appreciate a gift that is handmade. Now do not panic if you aren't exactly crafty! I do not mean you must go crazy here. Just put yourself into the gift is all, while considering the recipient. I will list some ideas that are simple and won't break the bank!
  1. Family Movie Night Basket - This one is so easy and everyone I have given it to loves it! Find a medium sized basket and fill it with these items (or similar)
  • Family themed movie
  • Old fashioned popcorn (bag costs under $1)
  • Popcorn Bowl (even better-use this as your basket! Buy at a Dollar Store)
  • Flavored Popcorn Salts
  • Various Candy
               This gift is great because you have shopped for an entire family! Instead of 3, 4, or 5 individual gifts at 10.00 each, for under 20.00 you have it covered!
2. On the same thought buy a  Family Game Night package
  • An inexpensive Board Game
  • Snacks
  • Hot Cocoa
  • Mugs
3. For the Ladies
  • Spa Gift Set - include small toiletries in an exotic scent along with a bath pouf in a basket. Add a few votive candles with holder and it'll look fantastic!
  • Recipes in a Jar - Your favorite recipes dry ingredients layered in a large mason jar, along with a handwritten copy of instructions. Wrap it up in a cute kitchen towel for a great presentation!
  • Gratitude Journal - For just $1 you can purchase a blank journal. Add embellishments to suit the recipient. Fill in the first page as to why you are grateful for them!
  • A Trip Down Memory Lane - Several ways to do this:
                1. Buy a photo album and create a simple scrapbook. Add extra items such as postcards,   pictures, and other things you have shared with the recipient.
                 2. Buy a wooden frame at the craft store. Paint it and decorate it with a theme that corresponds to a picture of you with the recipient. Ex. glue shells on it for a beach photo.
                  3. A treasure chest! For about $5 you can purchase an unfinished wooden chest. Glue on photos and adhere them with Mod Podge.  They can fill it with their favorite momentos.
4. For the Guys- Yes, guys like handmade too!
  • Fisherman, hunter, outdoorsman? Get a small plastic tackle box at any hardware store. Fill it up with emergency staples geared towards their passion! Ideas include a flashlight, power bars, compass, disposable camera(for the one's that get away!), and a certificate printed off the computer stating "World's Best Fisherman, etc".
  • Techie? - Decorate a T-Shirt with Computer slang (This Bytes for example). Or make a Password Journal for them to keep. Just decorate a blank journal with a computer theme. Make a Mouse Pad for them. You can purchase Blank Ones and decorate them yourself!
  • Handyman? - Again you could fill up that "Tool Chest". Fill it with candy or even handwritten notes. Find a great picture of him "in action" and frame it in an unfinished wooden frame that you have embellished with the phrase "Tool Time" and pictures of various tools etc....
5. The Kids (Little Ones)
  • Create a Board game - Decorate a blank piece of cardboard after a model of "Chutes and Ladders", "Candyland", etc. You create the theme! Do they love Pokemon, Yugioh, Barbie? Each space can relate to their interest. You will need a large piece of cardboard, paper relating to the theme (maybe from a book, magazine, or even off the computer), game pieces (gumball machine?), and "cards". For the cards you can use index cards. They will love it!
  • Bubble Bath Heaven - In a basket combine bubble bath, bath crayons, and small bath toys. My son loves those Grow a Towels and the Sponge Capsules. Again go with a theme! Have fun with this one!
  • Gift Certificate Books - Make your own coupon book. Include items such as - stay up 1/2 hour later, trip to the zoo, make cookies with mom or dad, family movie night. You name it! Cost? Nothing except the quality time you get later.
6. Tweens and Teens -
  • Here the coupon book could work again. Trip to mall, extra 1/2 curfew for one night, lunch date with mom or dad. You get the picture.
  • Give them a their baby book and include a letter with it. My mom did this and I loved it!
  • Books related to their hobby
  • Make a decoration for their room. Lamps are easy ! Buy a fairly blank one and embellish the shade to match their room (Sports, Dragons, Pop culture, etc). Or a bulletin Board. Cover blank cork with fabric related to their interest. Wrap some coordinated ribbon and adhere with push pins for a French style memo-board. Click here for an idea of the finished product.
Now, of course, not everyone on your list will appreciate the handmade. You know who they are! Be prepared. Shop early, check out clearance shelves, buy off season. Have a drawer set aside for gifts. That way you'll always have some on hand.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Abnormal Mammogram and Following Up

So, last Saturday I had my very first mammogram. Supposed to be easy peasy, booby squeezy and I am done right? Not so fast! First off, I was told that it only hurts if you have smaller breasts. Well, that sonofabitch hurt like a mother on my 36D boobs. I do not think anyone would classify that as a small breast.

Then, Tuesday I get a call while on lunch. Inconsistencies between my 2 breasts, an area on my left breast, nothing to compare it to.... blah, blah..... With every word I am growing colder and shakier. THIS was not the call I had been expecting.

Long and short of it they want me to come back to retest, but "No rush"... When I explain I have another appointment on the 12th and why not schedule for then? The answer I got was "Can't you come in this Friday?" Um, I thought there was no rush! Now I am beyond terrified. What woman wouldn't be?

So, I went yesterday. Another 4 views on the mammogram of just the left breast. Then an ultrasound. Ironically when they told me the left breast, I instinctively knew just where in the breast the "problem" was. Had I been having discomfort and not known it? How could I know the exact area they are focusing on?

Well, even after the ultrasound, there is definitely something there. But they do not know what those 2 spots are. I will need a biopsy now.

I am terrified!

And the hardest part is not calling my mom. I am trying to not worry her, as we just lost my Grampa to cancer last month.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

My Heart Is Breaking... I Am So Angry And There Is Nothing I Can Do (Parenting Teens Is Hard)

My son is seeing some struggles lately. HUGE struggles! There is just so much crumbling around him and I want to make it all better. But I can't! And my heart is broken.

As I wrote about previously, my son has Asperger's Syndrome. We always thought this would be his "hurdle". So, we taught him to embrace it, to own it, to believe it does not have to be such a negative thing. And up until the past 2 years, his education and getting the educators to understand him has been the biggest part of any negativity.

High School has fucked with my child's head. Oh, I do not mean the school itself, although that is a huge problem that will be rectified soon.

I mean he is literally watching his Grandfather battle stage 4 lung cancer.  And school issues are the last thing he needs. However, the battles include

  • Teen angst
  • Hormones
  • No Self-Esteem at all
  • A child who feels like a ghost within the school's walls because very few will even talk to him
  • Lack of Acceptance for just how amazing he is
  • A Lack of connection on the peer level
  • "Friends" not living up to their end of the friendship
  • His very best friend blocked him from all levels of communication at the directive of a boyfriend
  • No confidence
  • Depression
  • Panic Attacks
  • Very likely agoraphobia

And this amazing kid, heartbreak after heartbreak, keeps trying! Trying to find people who will just fucking accept him!

Now, yes, he is a little awkward and a lot introverted and introspective. Yes, he has social anxiety. And yes, he dives right into a friendship a bit like one plunges into a pool from a high diving board. All in, laying himself bare, not an ounce of self preservation and trying so hard, so fucking HARD!

He is the one the girls go to when they have issues. He is the one who stays online with them telling them how much better they deserve. He gives love and caring and acceptance without judgement.

When the fuck is someone going appreciate all that HE deserves!

This young man embodies empathy and understanding. Yet when someone discards that, he believes there is something wrong with HIM. How very wrong he is! He is deep, articulate, intelligent, and free with his love. No. There is nothing wrong with him. The wrongs are in a society, especially our youth who value popularity and image more than they do substance, which my son has in spades.

We talk of anti-bulling and acceptance, but these are not taught at home.  They are lectures and random mandates as the kids of today see them.  They have no meaning to our kids. As parents', I can only speak from what I have seen first-hand,  you have failed and failed miserably in this area. How is it that with all of the rhetoric thrown about that our young adults are filled with cruelty, judgement, and apathy? Hmmmm, could it be that they learn what they see?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Autism Is..... World Autism Day and My Family

Both my son and I have Asperger's Syndrome. I thought I would share a poem he wrote in 6th grade that shows both how deep he was at a young age, and his knowledge that his Asperger's make him different.

I am an odd child whom takes interest in many things
I wonder where time originated
I hear the wind billowing through the overgrown plains of the Savannah
I see the light shining through a dark, dank forest
I want to understand the concept of life
I am an odd child whom takes interest in many things
I pretend that things always turn out right
I feel the light of inspiration overcome the abyss that is thoughtlessness
I touch ideas that have remained untouched for a long time
I worry that when death washes over us, we simply fade into oblivion
I cry, when someone dear to me passes away
I am an odd child whom takes interest in many things
I understand that true peace may never be achieved
I say that time cannot exist without space and that the same holds true for space
I dream of variation of things I've experienced
I try my hardest to never fail
I hope that I can do something with my life
I am an odd child whom takes interest in many things
                 ~Jaycen B

We do not need Awareness, we NEED Acceptance!

My son feels like a ghost in the High School he has attended for 3 years.  He is not spoken to by most unless he tries to start a conversation (Which is very difficult for many on the spectrum).  He has been bullied and the school denies it.  He has suffered major anxiety attacks within the walls of the school only.  His IEP is ignored even when I rail and fight so hard for him. 

My child who thought he was the center of the universe for so many years, is depressed, riddled with anxiety, and never told us!  His self worth is constantly challenged. This is not the happy go lucky child I had for 13 years prior.

NO MORE! He will no longer attend this school after the end of his Junior year. There is a wonderful program for non traditional learners at the local Community College, and he would also earn college credit!

And if that does not pan out, I will Home School. What I will not do is send him back into an environment which cannot accept him.

So, yeah- this is Autism in my house.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I Am Canning Butter! Who Knew?

So, I have done a lot of reading about canning butter.  The FDA warns against it, but frankly in the midst of GMOs and ammonia in our meat, I don't really trust the FDA all that much.

Most of the research I came across used an oven method, that I just did not feel comfortable with.  One thing, that I ran across in my research is that you should boil the melted butter on the stovetop for 5 full minutes to kill off any microbes (um they shouldn't be in there anyway I am thinking, but I like to be cautious), so I did that!

I also sterilized my canning jars, lids, and bands in the hot water bath method. The oven method, just didn't seem like a good idea to me.  After melting the butter and boiling it for 5 minutes, I ladled (again the ladle was sterilized in the water bath) into the jars leaving about an inch head space.

I secured the lids and bands, after cleaning the outside of the jar lips. Then I decided to again use the hot water bath method to can the butter!

From everything I have read, this butter will be shelf stable for 1-3 years.  I know some have used it after even 5 years, but I am not that brave.  I only made 6 pint jars, so I am positive this will be gone by the middle of Summer.